Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Aye Chan's Selective Amnesia – a brief analysis

Aye Chan is a Rakhine racist and bigot who has made a profession out of distorting history of Muslims of Arakan. His latest article "Burma’s Western Border as Reported by the Diplomatic Correspondence (1947 – 1975)" is another such evil attempt to justify aggression and oppression against the Rohingya Muslims of Arakan (and Burma). In his twisted logic he shows his selective amnesia about the crimes of his own racist group while being all agog about the so-called secession movement of the Rohingyas in the dying days of the British rule in South Asia.

Aye Chan's latest disingenuous attempt to revise history should not surprise anyone that is well acquainted with the history of partition of British India and emergence of Burma as a free nation. During that period, many activists of the freedom movement felt that it was not what they had bargained for with the leaders of the dying British Colonial administration. Even the Arakanese people wanted a state of their own away from the control of the Burmans. Muslims of Kashmir wanted to be part of Pakistan, a matter that was left unresolved because while the territory had some 80-90% Muslims, its ruler was a Hindu. So was the case with princely state of Hyderabad, ruled by Muslim nobility over Hindu majority.

In the then East Pakistan no one knew for a short period after 14-15 August 1947, whether Sylhet and Karimganj, two places with huge Muslim population would become part of Pakistan or became part of India. The same goes for other territories all along the boundaries that we see today. Boundary demarcation was not clear. Some border towns had one day the Indian flag raised, only to be replaced by the Pakistani flag next day, or week, and vice versa. So, if the Rohingya Muslim people of Northern Arakan, where it is overwhelmingly Muslim, had desired during the independence of Pakistan and Burma to be connected with fellow Muslims in East Pakistan, because of their cultural ties, was it totally out of line? I doubt that.
Even the Rakhines did not want to be part of Burma. There were insurgencies, communist and nationalist alike, raging everywhere inside Burma. From the 1950s, there was a growing movement for secession and restoration of independence of Arakan. In part to appease this sentiment, in 1974, the socialist government under General Ne Win constituted Rakhine State from Arakan Division giving at least nominal acknowledgment of the regional majority of the Rakhine people. This was an unfortunate and ill-conceived decision, planting the seeds of racism in a divided country along ethnic lines that would complicate the relationship between the two major ethnic groups, Rakhines and Rohingyas. Islamic separatists calling themselves the Mujahid also carried out a rebellion to create an Islamic state in the regions bordering Chittagong/Cox's Bazar (of the then East Pakistan). Now to blame the Rohingyas for their piece of struggle, while hiding crimes of the Rakhine insurgency, is insincere and racist to the core. It is not analysis but paralysis of independent and unbiased thinking! As the dust settled, which by the way did take some years with all those killings of founding leaders of Burma, the disparate people of Burma have learned to live with the new reality of military autocracy. But Burma still remains a fractured country of nations where racism runs deep and wisdom a rarity, even amongst its intellectuals.

Today's Rohingya people have no desire for a separate homeland of their own, if their basic human rights can be protected. But if they continue to be treated as outsiders, infiltrators, and all the false xenophobic, or rather racist, epithets thrown at them by their hateful accusers, then it is high time for the conscience minded people of our planet to demand a change with such an attitude that forces these indigenous people of Arakan to live a life of statelessness inside Burma, or of unwanted refugees outside.

Historically, the people of Arakan and Chittagong were the same people living along the coastal shorelines of the Bay of Bengal. The River Naaf which now separates Burma from Bangladesh was not a physical barrier to these indigenous people. People of this joint landmass lived for centuries together before they became part of either the Muslim Sultanate or Buddhist Rule.

The indigenous people, the true Bhumiputras (adibashis), were these brown-colored (Indian featured) people whose descendants now live in northern Arakan (whom we know as the Rohingyas) and Chittagong/Cox's Bazar districts of today's Bangladesh (known as the Chittagonians). Their racial similarity was mostly because of that connected shoreline, away from the Arakan Yoma mountain range that had separated this crescent on the Bay of Bengal from the thrust of savages coming from the north and the east. Their dialect was also same (originating from Sanskrit, which later evolved into Bangla) until much later in history, when the Muslim ruled Chittagong absorbed lots of Farsi and Arabic terms in their vocabulary, as a result of Sultanate and Mughal rule of Bengal.

It took the late 10th century for this landmass of Arakan, then ruled by Hindu kings, to come under the possession of the Tibeto-Burman Buddhist invaders from the north. While the northern territories of Chittagong survived from the takeover, it took a few centuries, until the Mrauk-U dynasty to cement this relationship between the two sides of the Naaf River. Nurtured by the new rulers who were indebted to the Bengal Sultan who had restored Narameikhla back to power in 1430, Mrohaung (sounding Rohang or Roshang - in Bengali), the capital city, became the literary center of Bengali literature. From then on, the cultural link between the two sides was only punctuated during the Burman invasion of Arakan in 1784, when tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims and Hindus, and Rakhine Buddhists were killed and enslaved. Many fled to Chittagong and settled there. During the British occupation, dating back to 1824, some of the children and grandchildren of these exiles returned to cultivate the land that had become desolate. Many however, chose to remain in Chittagong, as is well recorded and documented to this date.

The obnoxious claim that the Rohingyas are a product of British occupation period, or of even later time, or geopolitics of the region, is absolutely false. It is ludicrous and aimed at denying basic rights of citizenship to these people. Not only is this 1982 Citizenship Law in Burma (interestingly written by Rakhine racists like Aye Kyaw, himself a naturalized American, living in NY city) at variance with all laws of our civilized world, it is downright criminal, and must be altered, thus allowing restoring rights of this unfortunate people, and many other races and ethnicities (including the Karen).

Even on another level, when we consider that it took less than a decade for many of these Rakhine exiles, now comfortably living as naturalized citizens in their adopted countries - USA, Germany, Canada, Japan and other parts of Europe, it is really bizarre to see them advocating for denial of citizenship rights to the Rohingya people. How long should they wait? Even if one were to accept the Rakhine version of false propaganda that the Rohingyas had infiltrated the territory in the mid-19th century, is not these 100 plus years sufficient?

Funny that these hostile racists and bigots of the Rakhine community claim that they are democratic minded and would love to see a federal state where democracy runs supreme! Their provocative statements, and the lies that they propagate, and the hatred that they spew, inciting violence against minority, only go on to show that they are fascists, and nothing else.

Aye Chan, who works for the Kanda University of International Studies in Japan, gives a bad name to scholarship and critical analytical thinking. His racist and bigotry-ridden writings that provoke his ethnic Rakhine group and the hated Myanmar military regime to justify their inhuman crimes against the Rohingyas of Burma show that he is also a disgrace to the Kanda University and the civilized world who has learned to move on burying their age old hatred and build a better society for our human race. Shame on Aye Chan and his peers and patrons!

No comments:

Post a Comment